Matt Wilkinson, New Music Editor
The first performance I saw at SXSW was a guy on Sixth Street breaking out of a suitcase he'd stuffed his entire body into, while hundreds of whooping kids chugged beer all around him. The second was a fearsome punk band from Austin, Texas called US Weekly. Playing at the brilliant Hotel Vegas venue - heaven if you're into such fare, with four different stages and about 100 bands playing per day - they ripped through around six songs with the kind of ferocity that recalled Seattle's finest acts from 25 years ago. Melodic punk, their recent EP Ideas has been on repeat since:

Away from the madness of downtown Austin, I caught a bunch of acts at Transgressive's party, held in a student house complete with backyard pool. The best by far were Aussie newcomer Julia Jacklin (more info below) and Brit punks Thee MVP's, who strut and swagger like Dr Feelgood and are, perhaps oddly, 100% perfectly suited to the lo-fi US DIY scene they clearly also adore so much.

Jacklin, then, hails from somewhere called the Blue Mountains in the middle of Australia, and is the hot A&R ticket here. She's not signed yet but give it a few days. The track to check makes me think of Angel Olsen meeting Fleetwood Mac on a dusty highway somewhere serene, and is really rather lovely:

Sheer Mag are in town too, which this year means mad queues, tonnes of interview requests and playing 'big' shows like the Fader Fort. I'm not sure how much they enjoyed all that, but when I saw them play a 1am set at Mohawk - sandwiched between the brilliant Downtown Boys and the brilliantly mad Erykah Badu - they looked the happiest onstage I've ever seen them. It definitely helped the performance, with singer Christina Halladay sounding incredible on 'Fan The Flames':

A video posted by Matt Wilkinson (@w1lko) on

Rhian Daly, Writer
In the sweltering heat, Downtown Boys kick up the first fire of SXSW in the backyard of Side Bar. Playing songs from their debut album 'Full Communism', the Providence, Rhode Island five-piece turn the dusty yard into a space full of passion and sweat. Before each song, singer Victoria Ruiz gives impassioned speeches about Donald Trump, sustainability, Bruce Springsteen and more. When her bandmates begin each track, she leaps off stage and thrashes and screams at the audience, the reaction warming each time she gets up in someone's face. Inspiring, motivating and heaps of fun, Downtown Boys' performance sets the bar incredibly high for the rest of the week.

Later, at Huw Stephens' showcase at Latitude 30, Oscar and his band bring a different vibe. Songs like 'Daffodil Days' and 'Be Good' sum up the magpie approach of his upcoming debut album 'Cut And Paste', dub and R&B and soul filtering through his very British indie-rock. 'Breaking My Phone' sounds like a gigantic anthem shaking through the venue's PA and 'Don't Go' shows a softer, more mellow side of the London songwriter. As he announces the last song of his set, a few voices excitedly shout out the title. 'Sometimes' ends with Oscar pogoing about the stage, fringe flapping against his grinning face and infectious melodies spooling out of the speakers.

Jonathan Garrett, Writer
As SXSW has gotten larger, planning a schedule and sticking to it has become next to impossible. The incredible sprawl, crowds, and barricades lining the streets means that walks between venues can be upwards of twenty minutes. But the good news is that a larger event also means there are more artists to take in and stumble upon than ever before. A little patience and flexibility goes a long way at today’s SXSW. Below are a few written snapshots from the journey.
The day begins with the BuzzBands.LA day party. Kid Bloom opens up the show promptly at 12:30 pm, and as I would later discover, these SXSW performances mark their first outside of their native Los Angeles. There’s a palpable anxiousness at the start, but the band quickly settles in, giving ample space for their kaleidoscopic psychedelia to unfurl. It’s early yet for them but they’re definitely ones to keep tabs on.

Pumarosa pulls off perhaps the day’s most unexpected coup. Scheduled during the prime Austin hangover hour of 1 pm, their set during the Neon Gold day party, rather predictably, is seen by only a few. But the band appear undeterred, flexing serious muscle in their Mondays’ grooves. The unquestionable highlight is the 7-plus-minute single 'Priestess', with Isabel Munoz-Newsome turning the song’s invitation to dance into an irresistible seduction. Shaun Ryder would be proud.

My evening session begins at a bar about a mile from the SXSW epicenter at a bar called Wonderland. Here, Atlanta band Warehouse cuts an especially mathy path through post-punk indie. It certainly has its charms, though admittedly, it’s tough to make sense of Elaine Edenfield’s Love-esque vocal fry against the backdrop of her band’s perpetual sandstill. Unfortunately, Warehouse’s whole is never adds up to anything greater than the sum of its parts.

I arrive at Stereogum’s soiree just in time for Twin Peaks to take the stage. As usual, they do not disappoint. They were already good when I first saw them in 2012 as excited teenagers at a Chicago bar playing to ten people, but now with hundreds of shows behind them and on the verge of releasing their third record this May, they are almost an entirely different band. The youthful energy remains very much intact but it is now deployed in service of uniformly strong material. The set arcs beautifully, displaying both stylistic breadth and emotional range, and amazingly, one gets the sense watching them that they’ve still yet to hit the ceiling on their potential.

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